At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA), establishing federal protections to prevent states from discriminating against voters on the basis of race or color. In 2013, however, the Supreme Court gutted those protections, leaving voters subject to increased voting barriers, especially in communities of color. Without those protections, more than 389 state bills to restrict voter access to the polls have been proposed in 2021 alone. Many of these will have a disparate impact on communities of color.
In 2020, the House of Representatives passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (HR4), which would have restored the VRA’s protections. It’s time to revive efforts to end discriminatory voting practices by reintroducing and passing this legislation. This is why we’ve joined with over 160 civic-minded businesses in signing a letter urging Congress to restore the VRA’s protections.
The VRA protects rights enshrined in the Constitution. The 15th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees U.S. citizens the equal right to vote regardless of race or color — and it gives Congress the power to enforce these protections. Once restored, the VRA provides the tools to enforce the 15th Amendment.
The VRA is still the law of the land. Although VRA protections have been limited by Supreme Court decisions, the law still stands. The VRA’s coverage formulas simply need to be updated based on more recent evidence relevant to current conditions.
The VRA has a strong history of bipartisanship. In 1970, 1975, 1982, and 2006, the VRA was reauthorized with overwhelming bipartisan support and signed into law by a Republican president. The most recent reauthorization in 2006 passed the Senate with unanimous support: 98 to 0 with 53 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and 1 Independent.
The VRA is evidence-driven. The VRA’s protections require evidence of discriminatory impact on voters. Intent does not need to be proven. To stay in compliance with the law, state lawmakers simply must ensure their election changes won’t have a differential impact on communities of color.
For businesses, ensuring that every citizen can register and cast their ballot without difficulty is a moral and economic imperative. In the 2020 election, thousands of companies demonstrated their commitment to a vibrant democracy with high voter turnout by encouraging their employees and communities to vote. Companies that support widespread civic engagement, election integrity, and equal rights now have another historic opportunity to demonstrate that commitment.
We are proud signatories of the Business for Voting Rights letter to Congress, and we are proud to have helped recruit many of the 160 companies committed to ensuring that every American has an equal right to vote. We invite every civic-minded company and business organization to join us today by signing the letter at businessforvotingrights.com.
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About Business for America
Business for America is a nonpartisan network of business leaders advancing solutions to boost civic engagement, reduce political polarization, and modernize government. A well-functioning democracy will help foster a more competitive, innovative business climate in America. Businesses interested in getting involved can learn more at bfa.us.